Things we've learned by uniting a new agency model with clients who can't afford to do business as usual.

How to Plan for 2021 When You’re Still Figuring Out 2020

2020 has been a very unusual year. From the stay-at-home orders across the United States to the postponement of all major sports leagues, the landscape of America has looked completely different. Businesses, both large and small, have experienced these same changes. Currently, there is no definitive timetable for when things will return to “normal.” According to Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the pandemic could be nearly over by late 2021 with continued public health measures and a vaccine. So, how do marketers plan for an uncertain future while still trying to figure out the present?

Many marketers have been improvising or relying on experience to achieve success this year. According to a report by the CMO Survey, over 60% of marketers have used high levels of improvisation in their marketing plans since the pandemic began in March. Further, more than 80% relied on team members’ and top management knowledge and experience to effectively deal with the pandemic. 

Relying on experience is always a good idea, but there has not been a pandemic of this magnitude in 100 years. As a result, it’s difficult to base next year’s decisions off of your team’s knowledge. Similarly, making improvised decisions in an ever-changing environment probably will not yield the best results.

At BTP Unite, we believe there is a better, more effective way forward. While it may be surprising, the best key to success is the same whether in the midst of a pandemic or not; you still need smart strategic planning and great execution. Without these, even the best ideas can fail.

Take restaurants for example. Restaurants are marketed as a home away from home, a place of community, and as an easy food option. These businesses depend on in-person service, a friendly, caring approach, and hopefully food that will make customers return. When the pandemic began, this type of service could not continue, posing a significant challenge to the industry. While these businesses could no longer serve in the way they were used to, the most successful restaurants did everything possible to maintain that sense of community by introducing outdoor seating, order windows, and curbside pick-up. The restaurants that embraced these changes quickly as a way to execute strategy have largely been more successful than others that moved more slowly, with a narrower marketing vision.

So instead of making significant changes to your marketing strategy on the fly, stay the course. To better understand your customers’ new needs, you may need to gather additional data or make some tweaks to how you go about things, but there should not be a complete overhaul of your marketing strategy and execution. Ultimately, your business should trust your strategic planning and be flexible regarding execution.

Written by Matt Burr - Matt has experience in marketing and communications roles at a number of organizations.

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